Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting

EJ and Danny
EJ and Danny

It’s looking very November. One afternoon last week EJ, Danny, and I walked through one of our little meadows and into the forest on our way back from the mailbox.  In the meadow we saw an area of flattened grass where EJ said the deer have been laying. Danny explored that area with his nose for a long time. We let him snuffle around for a bit, but just before our route would cause us to lose sight of him, we called “Com’n, Danny!” He ignored our first few calls and he followed only after increasingly insistent calls. Danny always makes me laugh because he makes his own path in his own time as he slowly and randomly meanders after us.

Pileated Woodpecker shredded this tree
Pileated Woodpecker shredded this tree

I sent my pictures of the shredded fallen trees to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources last week. They messaged me:  “We asked our wildlife staff about this and they believe it could be woodpecker damage. The damage is likely caused from pileated woodpeckers as they are known to cause some significant damage to trees.” I had thought it might be a large predator with sharp claws–like a bear or cougar or dragon–that had shredded the tree and I’m relieved that that is not the case because I’d hate to encounter one on our daily walks to the mailbox or when I take Danny outside after dark. However, I’m totally amazed that woodpeckers could shred a tree like that.

Speaking of scary things: I haven’t seen any giant spiders on the porch for over a week. Either the news has spread via the spider world-wide web that I kill spiders or….I remember that the spider in Charlotte’s Web died after laying her eggs so maybe they are all dead. But like all horror stories, somewhere there is a generation of new giant spiders breeding so they can terrorize me! EJ told me that the spiders are not specifically targeting me, but I’m not convinced.

On Friday JJ took the compass test at the college. I drove him because he was having severe anxiety attacks about it. He was especially anxious about the math section because he feels he is stupid when it comes to that subject. Because he thinks he is stupid, he approaches math with much anxiety which doesn’t help. I have told him that I believed he would have the ability to do math if it ever became important to him. “It IS important to me to do well at math,” he says. “No,” I reply. “It’s only important to you because you want to do well on the test or the class. It’s not relevant to you in life yet.” I reminded him of times when he has played complicated computer games and he easily used math to figure out complicated formulas.

I also reminded JJ of writing. Through elementary and middle school, I couldn’t get him to write a decent sentence. I tried everything: giving him a topic to write about that was suggested in our curriculum, giving him a topic about subjects that I knew he was interested in to write about, letting choose his own topics to write about. Nothing worked. His writing was horrible except for rare moments when he saw something that sparked his imagination and he spontaneously sat down and wrote about it in beautiful, funny, witty ways. Those moments made me think that he had the ability to write well if he ever really had a reason to. Then one day in 9th grade, he suddenly announced, “I’m going to write a book!” and he sat down and wrote an amazing, mature, and deeply profound beginnings of a story that left me stunned. It’s as if his writing went from kindergarten to college level in a single bound. His writing has only become better since then. Just before we moved North, he was meeting with a jounalist/writer who told him that he was an excellent writer and he needed to keep at it. I expect him to be a famous bestselling author some day.

Not surprisingly, JJ didn’t do well on the math sections of the compass text but he excelled at the writing sections. In fact, he was only one point away from being placed in an honor’s writing class. He beat himself up about the math, but I said, “Boo hoo hoo! So you aren’t perfect in every subject. Stop focusing on the one area you didn’t do so well in and celebrate all the other subjects that you did great at. Math is just a skill to be learned and you will learn it in time. It’s not the end of the world that you have to take some classes to build your skill and confidence.” So then he started feeling better.

After the test, JJ asked me to drive him to the Admissions Office where he signed up for the college orientation at the end of next week. I have strongly suggested that he restart his college career by taking just one class that he really enjoys. Besides the fact that he couldn’t afford to pay for a full load of classes, cancer interrupted his first semester of college and he needs to rebuild his confidence and not get overwhelmed.  I think that JJ is doing amazingly well to have started working again just a year after his chemo ended and now to be working towards going back to college.  I have read that teens who had cancer are less likely to have college degrees and have more struggles with depression, anxiety, and memory so I think he needs to ease into college.

I have continued to find and try out crochet patterns all week. Whenever I am not doing anything else, I am crocheting so that I can get enough items done to open my digital store. I had to buy a variety of yarns, which made me cringe because we are trying to decrease spending, not increase it. If we can succeed in selling these items, it will be worth it, but if not…? I fluctuate between excitement that this could be a wonderful opportunity and fear that it’s going to totally flop. Sometimes I think that I should just find a job outside the home–and maybe I would if it weren’t for the fact that I am nervous about winter and one of us would have to drive a car that doesn’t do well in snow. I guess JJ is not the only one who needs to build confidence.

We met with our insurance agent last week and were able to cut $100 from our monthly payment by increasing deductibles and reducing coverage on a few things. We had to balance increase risk with decreased expense. We can eventually add some of the coverage back after we get through this tricky financial season. Once we sell the house (please, God, sell our house soon) and pay off some of the bills medical bills, we will be in a better place.

When the insurance agent walked us back to his office, he apologized for the behavior of our previous agent. “Most State Farm agents do not act like he did,” he said. I said I felt that we should be the ones to apologize because our previous agent had screamed at both the new agent and his secretary for “stealing his clients.” What a jerk.

Yesterday afternoon EJ left to go to his hunting place. He always hunts at his friend’s parents’ hundred acre woods. EJ has been friends with this guy since he was a teen and he knows the family well. The trip is much shorter now that we live in the North.  This is the first time EJ has been able to go hunting since before JJ had cancer.  As I kissed EJ goodbye, I told him to have fun and make sure he gets us a deer or two because it will fill our freezer and help with food costs. EJ loves hunting because he finds quietly sitting in the woods is a time of reflection and connection to himself and God.

I love to ponder the differences between our new home and our old home. I had always lived in a town so I find differences between town life and country life, and differences between living in south Michigan and northern Michigan, and differences between living in an area of farmland and forests, and differences in the animals that I see. Some of the changes are in perception rather than reality. For example, although there are some different wildlife up here, many of the animals are the same, but living in town I rarely saw them. I am much more aware of the changes in the seasons in the north because I am surrounded by nature rather than houses. The night feels darker in the north because we are a few degrees of latitude higher and because with all the large forests and lakes there is not as much light pollution. In the south, I heard gunshots during hunting season, but they were occasional and far off. Here in the north, surrounded by state and national forests and not in town, I hear more frequent and closer gunshots.


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